Fast Forward: Harvard-Westlake School’s Annual Report

My family received the Harvard-Westlake School’s 2009-10 Annual Report. We don’t have any connection to the school. We got it because we contributed to a memorial fund for our friends, Scott and Jody Siegler’s amazing daughter, Julia Siegler, who was tragically struck by a car and killed while trying to catch the bus this past February. The cover photo, above, shows Harvard-Westlake students joining hands in honor of Julia and another student who died.

Here are a few highlights from the Annual Report:
  • Heritage Circle- $50,000 and up. Number of donors: 49
  • Community Circle- Under $1,500. Number of donors: 596
Here are some of the college matriculations for Harvard-Westlake Class of 2010:
  • Arizona State (1)
  • Carleton College (1)
  • Chapman University (1)
  • Columbia University (11)
  • Duke University (3)
  • Earlham College (2)
  • Harvard University (7)
  • Indiana University (1)
  • Kenyon College (1)
  • NYU (12)
  • Northeastern (1)
  • Northwestern (4)
  • Pepperdine (1)
  • Princeton (5)
  • Stanford (9)
  • UC Berkeley (1)
  • UCLA (6)
  • Yale (8)
Percent of students receiving financial aid: 17%

Not mentioned in the Annual Report, but possibly of interest. Thomas Hudnut, former President of Harvard-Westlake is married to Dee Dee Hudnut, Admissions Director at the Center For Early Education. As many of you may know, The Center is known as a “feeder” school to Harvard-Westlake. 

Look On The Bright Side. Really? Yes!

As I write this, I’m fully aware that you may find the title of this piece, “Look On The Bright Side” slightly annoying. At this point in the admissions process, you’re probably thinking, “it’s easy for her to say” or “how can I look on the bright side when I’m anxious and filled with uncertainty”? If @#&$!*! is all you can say, I totally get it.


Perfectly imperfect is how I see the admissions process–no matter what the outcome, this phrase seems to apply. I’m comfortable saying “look on the bright side” because I’ve been there. I was the mom applying to private elementary schools a few years ago. I rode the daily roller coaster of emotions. I was thrilled to submit written applications. I was nervous about parent interviews. I was dreading the testing days.


Similar to white water rafting, this process can jolt even the most steel-nerved parent. Ups and downs, and a stomach-turning ride of a lifetime that you just wish would end soon. So, if you find yourself feeling like you’re upside down in the middle of the river, you’re not alone. You have to be able to turn the boat over and start back down the river.


We talk about keeping your stress under control during the admissions process in Beyond The Brochure. Its an important part of getting to the end to get that “fat envelope” or acceptance letter (s). Here are some tips for anyone driven to distraction by this unique, anxiety-producing process–that is to say, all of us:


  1. The key to making it through admissions processes is to pace yourself. You need the endurance of a professional marathoner. Staying power, as they call it.
  2. You need to be really organized. Both of these things will benefit you and help you stay calm.
  3. Be prepared for your parent interviews. Do your homework about each school.
  4. Ask for help if you need it. See our blog interviews with top educational consultants (see links below).
  5. Ignore the endless preschool rumors and gossip.
  6. Be confident about what your family has to offer each school
  7. Be willing to re-set your expectations about a particular school if necessary
  8. Try not to care what anyone else thinks about where you apply or where your child is accepted. You may never see that parent again after you leave preschool!
  9. Aim high. This is your child’s education that will last him/her a lifetime.
  10. Look on the bright side! The outcome can be well worth all your efforts for your child and your family!

Guest Blogger Jenny: Waste Not, Want Not?

So here I am again, in the plastics section of the market, selecting more small, single sized, “reusable” plastic containers. It’s my third such trip in the last month. And it’s all for the sake of the environment.


How can buying plastic be good for the environment? Great question! There were many changes that came with switching from public to private school, but one of the most unexpected changes was the school’s “Waste-Free Program.” This program demands that the campus be as “waste-free” as possible. That means nothing disposable should be brought to campus. That’s quite a change from public school, where (although I didn’t purchase them), Lunchables were popular and the school sold Sun Chips.


“Waste-Free” sounds reasonable enough, in theory. In practice, however, the logic gets way fuzzier. The idea of a “waste-free” lunch was easy enough: Anna* buys her hot lunch on campus every day, and the catering company takes care of the waste part. That’s been a welcome relief; if your kid hates sandwiches and longs for hot food, the private school’s hot lunch program is a dream come true (and, serving salads and fruit, way more nutritious than you might think).


No, it’s the snack that really screws the whole plan up. Think about it: most “snack” food is either pre-packaged or is easy to stuff into little plastic baggies (hey, I’d even opt for a paper bag). But when a school institutes a “waste-free” policy, the kids are told they can’t throw anything away (a friend’s daughter even freaked over taking a banana, because, after all, she’d have to throw the peel away). Thus, those little individually-sized reusable plastic containers come into play. And that would be fine, if kids (at least my kid) didn’t lose the little individually-sized plastic containers at a shocking rate (many parents experience the same thing regarding those $20 a pop SIGG bottles). How often are these containers “reused?” I’d say the record is about five times, before vanishing into the same parallel universe that houses single socks and lost ballpoint pens.


Far be it from me to deride the school’s excellent intentions. And they are excellent; who wouldn’t want less waste and less trash on campus? The school has done an admirable job recycling plastic bottles and sending the proceeds to a Global Buddies Program in South Africa. You can’t argue with such laudable goals.


Yet, every morning when I ponder the snack supply, and often realize once again that the container supply is back to zero, I’m fraught with the anxiety of the absurd. Send my child to school with no snack and leave her with plummeting blood sugar. Send my child to school with a snack in the verboten plastic baggie, and have her risk reprisal. And then there’s the irony when I do have the right container: that every time my kid misplaces her plastic snack container, that’s more plastic tossed into the world that won’t get reused or recycled. It’s transformed from “waste-free” to “waste-ful,” in an instant.


So be aware: private school sometimes means dealing with policies and practices that, while well intentioned, aren’t always effective. In the end, I guess it’s better if Anna ends up hyper-conscious about waste and recycling, rather than oblivious.


Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.